Writings from Christine

Spouse Wants to Separate, You Don’t

by on October 28, 2018

marital-separation

After 15 years of marriage, Tim’s wife said she wanted to separate. He was shocked. It came out of nowhere. Just the month before they were on a family vacation and now she was asking for a separation? Her reasons were vague at best and the harder he tried to convince her otherwise, the more the difficult conversation escalated. She even mentioned getting a divorce.

It was one of the hardest conversations he had ever experienced, and he was caught entirely by surprise.

Sure he knew that she was unhappy at times, as was he, but he thought this was normal in a marriage. He asked her to go to counseling, she said, “No.” He asked if there was someone else, again, “No.” Tim knew that there had to be a reason for the separation at this particular time, however, she was not telling him. His attempt to understand was a fruitless process because he was not dealing with the complete truth.

Still, she asked for the separation. No matter how badly he didn’t want it, real love gives a person the space they request whereas control tries to force the other person to do what they want. So, could he withstand the separation for her sake?

Self-evaluation. This is not the best time to make a list of your spouse’s faults and an even worse time to begin pointing their failures out. Instead of focusing energy on them, turn the focus inward and discover the life events that impacted your development. It could be a trauma, abuse, addiction, a death, or an accident/illness. Even if they are unwilling to go to counseling, a therapist can help with this transition and perhaps highlight some hidden areas that need to be addressed. This is not about saving your marriage, this is about saving yourself so you don’t become a worse version of you during this difficult time. You cannot change your spouse – if you could they would be a different person by now and this would not be happening – but you can change you.

Self-realization. One of the exercises that is helpful during this time is to take an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t let your spouse or others make the list. This is not their version of you, it is from your perspective. Once the list is made, take a couple of days and reevaluate the list adding and subtracting as needed. Perhaps there are aspects of your development that are unattractive, things you might not be proud of, or parts of your personality that existed in the past but have been neglected in the present. Pick three of these words that you would like others to say about you. This is a new beginning. Each day, review these words and ask, “How can I be more like this today?” Remember, every journey begins one small step at a time.

Self-acceptance. By now, personal successes and failures are more evident. Take time to forgive yourself for any past mistakes, it is not productive to beat yourself up. Remember, you are deserving of the same grace that you extend to others. A good guideline is this: If you won’t say it to your best friend, you should not say it to yourself. Negative words have meaning and can be very damaging internally – they do not motive, they deteriorate. Having a strong sense of who you are, where you have been, and where you are headed, provides direction during a time that seems directionless.

Marriage Reflection. After you have taken better care of yourself, it is time to reflect on the marriage. Do the same three steps listed above for your marriage. Begin by evaluating the current state of your marriage. Where are you now compared to the past? What significant life events changed the direction of your marriage? Next, identify the strengths and weaknesses of your marriage. What areas need change? Finally, show acceptance for where the marriage is, ask for forgiveness for your contributions, and grant forgiveness (even if not asked) for your spouse’s. This is an arduous process and should be done with great care without expecting any results. This is not a time to compare faults and decide whose faults are worse.

Move forward. These steps might not save your marriage, but that is not the purpose of taking them in the first place. The purpose of this exercise is to move forward with intention and by design rather than sitting around feeling sorry for yourself. Life has changed, and it may be a temporary change or a permanent one, but nonetheless, it has changed. It is time to orient to the new situation, environment, and reality as soon as possible. One of the best ways is to use your self-discovery to inspire you to try a new exercise routine, volunteer, start a hobby, or find new friends.

Tim followed the list. While he still felt depressed due to the separation, it did help to shift his focus off of his spouse and what he couldn’t control to himself and what he could change. However, any prolonged depression should be addressed with a medical professional or counselor. You can change, and you can grow even through some of the most challenging times in your life.

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Posted under: Writings from Christine

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